Star-crossed Mississippi State loses fourth key player to a season-ending knee injury

Having just announced that guard Jalen Steele suffered a torn ACL in his left knee against South Carolina the previous day, Mississippi State sports information director Gregg Ellis tweeted something Thursday that surely had Bulldogs fans nodding their heads.

"To the person who buried the sacred bones under the Hump, would you please come and take them back," he wrote.

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If Mississippi State basketball isn't cursed, the Bulldogs are certainly the unluckiest team in the nation this season.

Already headed for a rebuilding year after losing head coach Rick Stansbury and starters Dee Bost, Arnett Moultrie, Rodney Hood and Renardo Sidney, Mississippi State has now had four other players suffer season-ending knee injuries. Starting center Wendell Lewis, point guard heir apparent Jacoby Davis and wing Andre Applewhite have also gone down with knee injuries since last spring, leaving the Bulldogs with only six scholarship players for Saturday's regular season finale against Auburn.

The flurry of injuries has made for a nightmarish first season for new coach Rick Ray. Mississippi State (8-21, 3-14) is tied for last place in the SEC with Auburn and had lost 13 straight games before Saturday's shocking upset of rival Ole Miss.

Steele's absence is especially crippling for Mississippi State because he leads the Bulldogs in scoring. He is only shooting 33.9 percent from the field because he is being asked to shoulder too heavy a load, but he averages 10.1 points per game and scored 17 against South Carolina prior to getting hurt.

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Chances are Ray has to feel a little frustrated, but credit the first-year coach for staying relentlessly positive publicly.

"Always a GREAT day to be a Bulldog!" he tweeted Thursday night. "LOVE my job, & our players r growing on & off the court everyday. No pity parties here."

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